In case you missed it yesterday, my friends over at Destination: Asphyxiation asked me to write something and I gave them “Let’s Talk About How You’re Doing”:
Here’s a simple lesson I learned right away. I don’t really care what your answer is when I ask how you are doing. I think most Americans implicitly understand this because we always answer “I’m fine” [translation: I’m having a good day] or “Okay” [translation: I’m not having a good day] knowing that the other person is just being polite. I could be covered in the blood of a loved one, tears streaming down my face, screaming the inevitable “Why?” into the sky above (just like in the movies!), and someone oblivious to my pain will ask how I’m doing and instinctively I will answer, “Okay.”
The question has become a greeting. It carries the same amount of weight as a friendly hello; which is probably why when we are walking down the street and see someone familiar and ask how they’re doing, we rarely stop. We just toss back a “Good!” or “Great!” and keep on walking.
My favorite is when we don’t even answer the question, but just throw it back instead:
Person A: “Hey, how are you?”
Person B: “Yeah, how are you?”
I didn’t really notice this until I was at work one day here in Poland and I saw a colleague walking down the hall. He said hello and I instinctively said, “How are you?” And the strangest thing happened. He stopped and immediately started telling me about how terrible his day was. He told me everything. At one point I thought he was going to cry. It seemed like he was relieved someone had finally wanted to know how he was doing. And this happened again and again, on the streets, in stores, everywhere.
There’s a whole lot more, so go over there and read the whole thing. I’m quite proud of it.